I date the start of my coronavirus life back to March 13, the last day I went anywhere without a mask. The weekend before, my husband and I went to Indiana to watch two of our grandkids compete in a divisional swim meet. On March 9, I took my granddaughter to the orthodontist. March 10, I went to an adult education class at Northwestern University and sat in an auditorium filled with seniors. I also waited inside my daughter’s house for my granddaughter’s bus and hung out with her for a while. March 11, I met a friend for coffee, went to see my personal trainer, and had an acupuncture appointment. On March 12, I had lunch with a friend in a local restaurant, and drove my granddaughter to an appointment. On our last day of normal life, March 13, my husband and I had doctor’s appointments. After that, life as I knew it ended.
That’s 29 weeks, 56% of a year, that I have tried to do my part. I stay home most days, wear a mask if I have to go out for food or necessities, wash my hands constantly, and see friends and family masked and socially distanced. The weather is starting to get cold here, so soon the last option will not be possible. In a matter of weeks, it will be my husband and me hanging out together, with only zoom or FaceTime contact with our children, grandchildren, and friends.
We moved from our home of 45 years to a condo on May 15, in the midst of a pandemic. When we bought the condo in early February, life seemed normal. Perhaps if Trump had shared what he knew about the coming plague, we wouldn’t have moved. By the time we put our house on the market, the coronavirus real estate crunch had arrived. No showing. People were afraid to come, afraid to move. We finally sold the house for much less than we had hoped and closed in September.
I have been lucky that no family members or friends have died. But my granddaughter, who lives in a residential special education school in Wisconsin, is recovering from Covid-19. It was heartbreaking to see her sick eyes via Skype, and I know it will not be safe for us to visit her until there is a vaccine. Similarly, I miss our son’s family in Boston, but know it is not safe for a couple in their 70s with pre-existing conditions to fly or drive there. We are also cut off from the Indiana branch of our family because my grandkids there are going to in-person school and our daughter goes to work as a vet.
We have been seeing our daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters outside, socially distanced, and masked since the girls have gone back to minimal activities that bring them into contact with others. Recently, while her parents and sister were visiting her sister in Wisconsin, their last visit before the facility closed again due to Covid-19 spread, my 14-year-old granddaughter was stranded after her dance class ended. She was not allowed to stay in the building and there was a mix-up about when the class ended. Her parents were coming back from Wisconsin but would never make it in time. So, she walked two miles in the rain to get home. When I asked why she didn’t call me for a ride, she explained that she was afraid if she got in a car with me, even with both of us masked, there would not be enough social distance to keep me safe if she was an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus. That made me cry.
People are growing tired of the rules. I understand. But it infuriates me when I see high school and college students roaming the streets mask-less and not attempting to social distance when I walk by. Two of my friends have fallen trying to scramble out of the way to social distance from folks who don’t think they need to wear masks. One broke her nose and another dislocated his finger. Walking in my neighborhood feel like a game of dodge ball.
A young woman in my building who don’t believe in masks also doesn’t respect the rule that only people living in the same unit can ride the elevator together. Recently, she rushed onto the elevator and stood in the opposite corner from me. She defended her action by telling me that the rules were stupid. I should have gotten off, but the door shut before I could think logically. Later that day, we went to a grocery store for the first time in months. The aisles were wide and clearly marked one-way. Yet, I encountered two woman wearing masks, going the wrong way, and lingering as they tried to decide what to buy. I didn’t want to pass them, as there was no way to do that without getting too close. I politely pointed out that they were going the wrong way. They laughed and told me they would hold their breath as I passed them. I couldn’t stop myself from telling them Covid-19 was not funny, that my granddaughter had it. At least they stopped laughing.
As folks in our neck of the woods contemplate the beautiful changing colors of the leaves and buy patio heaters to extend the time for outdoor visits, all I can see ahead are those cold, blustery, snowy days that will cut me off from the limited in-person contact I have with my family in town and friends. It is unthinkable, but likely true, that I won’t see my grandkids who live in Indiana. Wisconsin, Massachusetts for a year. I have stopped looking at Facebook photos of people who are happily gathering to celebrate or visit without masks. I wonder how sad it will be for just the two of us to have Thanksgiving dinner together. Yes, pandemic depression has set it.